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The Chrysanthemum and the Sword Paperback – January 25, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 1 edition (January 25, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618619593
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618619597
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #147,401 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

RUTH BENEDICT (1887-1948) was one of the twentieth century's foremost anthropologists and helped to shape the discipline in the United States and around the world. Benedict was a student and later a colleague of Franz Boas at Columbia, where she taught from 1924. Margaret Mead was one of her students. Benedict's contributions to the field of cultural anthropology are often cited today.

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Customer Reviews

This really hits the nail.
Veronica Hales
There is far less underneath than we would care to admit - perhaps, just perhaps, Japan is as ugly as it appears.
Robert J. Crawford
I recommend this book for anyone interested in the origins of Japanese culture.
Christopher Fryer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Veronica Hales on August 31, 2009
Format: Paperback
I am an oriental who is familiar with Chinese, Japanese, and Korean culture. This really hits the nail. Many people may say that this book is outdated - not so. The fundamental cultural undercurrent of Japan still remains as the book describes. In my opinion, this book holds key to understand motivation and reason in why Japanese do and say things that would be hard to understand by Occidental standard. Also for Chinese and Korean, the idea of 'repaying debt,' and 'duty' may not be specific as Japan and may not have strong vengeful element, but still is very much tied in with idea of filial piety creating more similar result to that of Japanese then that of the first world Western culture in terms of what is proper conduct, who to respect, how to show or not show respect, and saving the face (although some Chinese and Korean may claim that they much are different from Japanese in many respect. I would say by all means it is not identical, but similar from western standard). I have seen many westerners study Zen and Japanese tea ceremony to understand Japanese culture - this will not do. This way will never quite bring genuine understanding of Japanese because they will still be considered as a foreigner thus exception to regular application of Japanese hierarchal rule.

Many readers say that this book is not creditable because Ruth Benedict had not lived in Japan. That is irrelevant. This book cuts through craps and shows you the core of Japanese cultural mechanism.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Aleksandra Nita-Lazar on March 8, 2008
Format: Paperback
In 1944, the Allies landed in Normandy, forcing the German army to fight on two fronts; on the Pacific the counteroffensive against Japan gave the Americans one victory after another. The war was almost finished and the new world order was only a matter of time.
The losers, Germany and Japan, not only had to be punished, but these nations needed to be revived and given a fresh start.

In this political situation, the American government decided to get advice not only from the military and politicians, but also from the anthropologists - in an attempt to understand foreign, now subordinate, societies. The Japanese culture, so alien and distant from the American one, which is firmly rooted in Europe, was analyzed by Ruth Benedict, an anthropologist from Columbia University. The goal was to learn of the strengths and weaknesses of the Japanese in order to assume the best strategy towards the end and after the WWII.

Benedict writes with rare objectivity, describing Japanese traditions and customs, the habits, which are obvious in Japan, but weird, extreme or unheard of for an average Western person. She describes the situations, when the Japanese expect politeness and respect, and when they cannot count on any; when they feel shame, confusion and embarrassment; what they demand from their family, friends, co-workers and themselves. She discusses their roots, symbols and ideas on which the society is based (this is not a book about religion or art, so they are only mentioned when necessary).

The fact, that Benedict had never set foot in Japan, was nothing special - it was believed that it is possible for an anthropologist to use means other than personal experience in their work.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Cesar Diaz on July 22, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Any westerner who's ever been to Japan may have felt at one moment or another that he or she has landed, not only in a different country, but in quite a different planet. If you're taking a trip to Japan, the cultural tips you find in a quick reference tourist guide might suffice for travel, but if you're planning to live in Japan or study any particular topic of its culture, you'll definitely have to dig way deeper."The Chrysantemum And The Sword" is a classic text of Cultural Anthropology written around the end of WWII, and althought its author, Ruth Benedict, wrote it whithout ever setting foot in Japan, it's remarkable how far she went to understand the underlaying values of a culture like this, at times fascinating, and at times shocking. It was written in 1946, but it's still a book some people in Japanese universities suggest as a reference to understand some key aspects of this amazing culture. I'd also say this book is a must-read for anyone interested in humanity in the middle of war.
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31 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Fryer on November 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
Anthropologist Ruth Benedict was asked by the US government to research and compile information about Japan in order to understand the enemy they were fighting and the country they would soon be occupying. She did this surprisingly well considering that she had never set foot in Japan! Instead she conducted her research by interviewing Japanese who were living in the US during WWII and by gathering as much information on Japan as she could find. Having lived in Japan for ten years myself I found her observations to be accurate but also a bit outdated considering that we are now in the 21st century and Japan has become the second largest economy (not military). But Ruth did predict that Japan would refocus it's efforts and become a strong country again. The only criticism that I have personally is that Ruth had a very positive and understandably objective view of Japanese society, a society that I find somewhat childish, ignorant, and racist. But obviously one cannot completely understand a society until they have lived in that society for a while and learned the language so that they can get under the surface. I recommend this book for anyone interested in the origins of Japanese culture. As one reviewer remarked, the US should have done this kind of research before invading Iraq so they could have seen the mess they were getting into. One line from the book that I totally agreed with is that Americans tend to think that deep down inside people around the world are all the same but we are not all the same. Unfortunately (or fortunately) this is very true.
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